A survey of smaller UK suppliers indicates widespread support for legislation that would require buyers to pay bills within 45 days.

Market researcher YouGov and e-invoicing software specialist Basware canvassed opinion from senior decision makers at 2,036 British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over the period March 19 to April 3. Just over one in five of these were medium-sized firms with 50 to 249 employees; the remainder were small firms with less than 50 employees.

The sample covered five industries: manufacturing; construction; retail; finance/accounting; and hospitality and leisure. 

Asked whether their firm’s financial viability had been put at risk by a customer’s late payment, 22% of respondents agreed that it had with the figure among smaller firms at 23%. Higher percentages for firms in manufacturing (31%) and construction (27%) were offset by lower figures for the other three sectors. 

Responding to the statement ‘My business would be in favour of legislation that limits payment terms for invoices to 45 days’, 28% of firms said they ‘strongly agreed’ while 31% tended to agree, giving an overall 61% in favour.  

Only 10% disagreed and the balance were either neutral or said they didn’t know. This question also saw approval for legislation strongest from those in manufacturing (65%) and construction (68%), with support less strong from the other sectors. 

According to reports on the collapse in January this year of the UK construction services giant and outsourcer Carillion, the group had a reputation for settling bills late and kept some of its suppliers waiting up to 120 days for payment.